From the Editor:
Some thoughts on our "right to quiet": Throughout the history of the world, relative quiet has been the natural state. Humans have not had any time at all in evolutionary terms to adapt physiologically to loud noise. Vital human (and probably animal) functions such as the endocrine, cardiovascular and immune systems are now being found by researchers to suffer from the effects of chronic noise pollution. This is not surprising as, during our entire history, until very recently in terms of our age as a species, loud noise usually signaled danger. According to a 1962 study by otologist Dr. Samuel Rosen reported in the first edition of Murray Schafer's Book of Noise, the hearing of 60-year-old Mabaan Africans in the Sudan was as good or better than that of an average 25-year-old North American (and that was nearly 40 years ago)! This lack of presbycusis was attributed to the quiet environment of this tribe, where the loudest sounds were their own voices singing and shouting at tribal dances. Interestingly, the ancient Celts would not locate their sick near the sound of waterfalls or rivers. When noisemakers pollute the soundscapes of our homes, they are actually trespassing on our property with their noise. As Les Blomberg of the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse says, "Your noise will always trump my quiet. My quiet will never disturb or interfere with your noise."
In a new feature I have entitled The Last Word, we have a contribution in this issue regarding that annoying fixture of modern society "muzak", written by Cecilia Grayson, one of our members in Montreal. I would like to make this column a regular feature of the Newsletter, giving members a chance to contribute progress, problems, thoughts, opinions, essays - whatever noise-related material you feel would be of interest to other members, up to a maximum of some 600 words. Please feel free to forward contributions to <email@example.com> or to the Society's postal address.
Finally, I am distressed at the sheer number of windchimes I see for sale and proliferating on houses and apartments. They have become extremely popular in the last few years. Our home has no less than five sets in the vicinity, and we have had to ask neighbours to remove two additional sets over the years, as they were particularly intrusive due to location or design. Fortunately they complied; some sufferers are not so fortunate. The cruel effect of these jangly devices is akin to dripping water torture for some, and can wreak havoc with concentration and sleep, causing enormous stress and ill-ease. In enforcement terms, they provide a stellar example of one of the major flaws inherent in decibel-based noise bylaws. It is difficult to locate a block now in Vancouver which does not have at least one residence incessantly clanging on a windy (and sometimes just breezy) day, as I have often found when cycling or walking. It is really sad to dread that the breeze should blow. It is also sad that anyone can take pleasure in a sound that is causing others to suffer. When our neighbours did remove the two worst sets, they gave us the gift of peace.
An old Irish proverb states, "Ar scath a cheile a mhaireann na daoine!" - People live in each other's shadow!
Volleyball Courts Proposed for Jericho Park
Despite the fact that there are already 32 waterfront volleyball courts in Vancouver, the Park Board seems poised to yield to pressure from league players in constructing another 12, using land in Jericho Park just east of the Jericho Sailing Centre. In the late 1980s, taxpayers spent some $60,000 to beautify this land, only to have it now torn up to create, in the words of our President Hans Schmid, "a dozen dust bowls." He and Secretary/Treasurer Ilse Schnirch have been tirelessly collecting signatures against this rather unpopular proposal. Not only will it create an eyesore in this serene park, but there is a culture of noise surrounding the sport that will permanently harm the soundscape of the area. Indeed, the rock music from the courts at the Plaza of Nations has been heard pounding at 9 p.m., after all players had left for the night.
Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Fall, 2001
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